Sidepodcast - All for F1 and F1 for all

F1 encyclopedia

McLaren Honda

Formula 1 team

McLaren Honda
Credit: LAT
Team information
CountryUnited Kingdom
F1 debutMonaco Grand Prix, 1966
Season line-up
Race driverFernando Alonso
Race driverStoffel Vandoorne
Race driverJenson Button
Key members of staff
Executive directorZak Brown
Executive directorMatt Morris
Managing directorJonathan Neale
Racing directorÉric Boullier

McLaren are the second-oldest running team in Formula One, after Ferrari, and with that they have annals of history to live up to. Recent results have been disappointing, and team boss Ron Dennis made a swift comeback ahead of the 2014 season, having stepped away from the sport five years earlier. With Éric Boullier moving across from Lotus, and Fernando Alonso returning from Ferrari, the team hoped for good things in 2015 but found themselves struggling for form for several seasons.

F1 history

Bruce McLaren was a New Zealand driver who participated in thirteen F1 seasons between 1958 and 1970. For the final few years of his F1 career, he raced in his own eponymous team, Bruce McLaren Motor Racing. He had created the team when Cooper Cars, who he had been driving for at the time, wouldn’t help him participate in a different series. In 1966, he entered his own team in Formula One, and they have raced ever since.

McLaren died in 1970, but the team continued under the control of Teddy Mayer, until the following decade. In the early 1980s, McLaren joined with Ron Dennis who had his own Formula Two teams. Dennis had a neat and precise managing style, created the futuristic McLaren Technology Centre, and guided the team through several successful championship campaigns. They also created several iconic partnerships, including the title-winning McLaren Honda, a successful stint with Adrian Newey, and West tobacco sponsorship.

The McLaren Group has gone through several co-owners, with varying stakes – including Mercedes, Daimler, a Bahraini Holding company and Ron Dennis himself. Dennis helped the team navigate the stormy waters of 2007 - a season in which Fernando Alonso joined and quickly became dissatisfied with the management style, and the team were found guilty of having collected data from Ferrari. They were disqualified from the championship in that year, although the drivers were allowed to keep their points and continue their fight for the title.

Afterwards, Dennis took a step back from running the team, promoting Martin Whitmarsh in his place towards the end of 2009. Performance gradually dropped away from the team, an outfit with a name for developing its way swiftly through problems, and in 2013, they finished fifth in the championship – their worst position since 2004. Dennis made a comeback in early 2014, stepping in to replace Whitmarsh as CEO and hiring Éric Boullier from Lotus as Racing Director.

The season was a rollercoaster, with some good results and some disappointing performances. Much of the end of the year focused on their driver decision for 2015, with Fernando Alonso confirmed as returning to the team. His split from Ferrari wasn't a surprise, but his return to the team he left in 2007 was, and who would partner him was subject to plenty of debate. Eventually, it was confirmed that Jenson Button would remain, providing some stability and plenty of experience for the Woking team as they head into another season.

Unfortunately, the new engine proved difficult and early season races ended in retirement more often than not. Partway through the year, Alonso aired his frustration over the team radio, claiming it was embarrassing how poor the car was and they were acting more like a GP2 squad than anything else. Towards the end of the year, performance picked up a little, and the team ended with 27 points. For 2016, they retained Button and Alonso but it was another poor season for the squad. They improved to sixth place in the standings, with 76 points, and had a couple of high fifth places during the year, but it wasn't enough to satisfy the champions in the car.

During the year, Button looked more and more out of love with racing the car he was in, so it was no surprise when he confirmed he was stepping back for a year. Although still an ambassador for the team, he admitted he was treating 2016 as his last season in the sport. For 2017, Alonso is joined by Stoffel Vandoorne to bring a bit of youth to sit alongside his experience.

Learn more about McLaren with the Pocket F1 Handbook.